Although nearly a week ago now, Kit Downes’ visit to the Hen and Chicken still glows in the memory. I’d have paid the entrance fee just for a second set segue of Two Ones and Bley Days, two tunes from his quintet’s recent album Light from Old Stars . It began with a whining, scraping, pitch blending workout from Lucy Railton on cello, first banshee like and then an added drone evoking bagpipes. The gentle groove with a theme of interlocking figures and counter melodies that crept in gave way to the freer more urgent Bley Days, its repeated melodic fragments were distorted, slithering boppish lines with a hint of something more wild and country-ish twisting their tails, all delivered as tightly locked harmonised lines belying their apparently casual delivery. It set the scene for a dazzling piano work out, all tumbling phrases and rippling runs before a duet between James Allsopp on tenor and James Maddren on drums rattled the windows more than the storm sweeping in from the Atlantic . They started at sizzling, Maddren’s broken rhythmic phrases swirling round exploratory runs and arpeggios from Alsopp, moved up gears into racing swing and a Coltranesque barrage from the tenor before notching it up again drawing involuntary whoops from the sizeable, storm braving crowd. The playing was inspiring all round, but Downes’ and bass man Calum Gorlay’s writing was a winner too. Wide ranging tastes were reflected in differing moods that embraced a whisperingly quiet rendition of Swedish folk music inspired melodies and and a quietly intense, rocking, celebration of delta blues man Skip James. A fabulous, uplifting gig.
Kit Downes Quintet, Hen and Chicken, Sunday 9th February